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Will Bananas Go Extinct ?

Updated on March 31, 2010

Bananas have long been a favorite fruit due to their delicious flavor and low cost and are one of the most consumed foods in the world. Bananas are also known for their nutritional benefits including 400 mg of potassium, high fiber content and a low fat content. However, rumors about the extinction of the banana have circulated around the web for years now. Scared to see the loss of my favorite fruit and half of my nickname, I decided to do a mass Internet search to discover the truth. Fortunately, my research was not fruitless; it turns out that while the most popular species of banana could become extinct, there are still over 300 varieties of this yellow fruit to choose from.


Currently, the Cavendish is the most widely consumed banana in North America and Europe. Mass-producers of the fruit produce just this one banana species in order to ensure that the bananas ripen at the same time so that large amounts can be shipped around the world. However, the mass-production of just one banana species has also resulted in a lack of genetic diversity. This has lead to increased susceptibility to disease, as bananas are sterile and seedless, meaning that bananas reproduce by forming from the cuttings of existing plants. Therefore, they do not adapt to ward off new diseases or insects and instead maintain the exact same genetic code. 

Organic banana trees on Farm Maria Jose, Limon, Costa Rica
Organic banana trees on Farm Maria Jose, Limon, Costa Rica

In Asia, there is a deadly strain of fusarian wilt known as Panama Disease. This fungus is not deterred by fungicides and contaminates the roots of the Cavendish. If Panama Disease were to overtake commercial plantations, the Cavendish would fail to reproduce and supermarket shelves could not longer be stocked.  However, this is unlikely, as it would call for large amounts of infected soil to be spread amongst commercial plantations which is illegal. 

An employee of the EARTH University banana farm.
An employee of the EARTH University banana farm.

Therefore, it seems that we will have at least some form of banana for years to come and that I no longer need to stress about the disappearance of my favorite fruit. Check out the video below for some information on sustainable banana farming in Costa Rica.  


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